SAVED by boiling water.
Quick-thinking Filipino sailors prevented their own abduction last week by pouring hot water over a group of suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits as they tried to board their ship in the waters off Basilan province in the south.
The foiled seajacking has prompted authorities to intensify anew maritime security operations in the Sulu Sea to protect foreign and domestic seafarers from pirate attacks.
Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez Jr., commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), lauded the crew of MV Kudos for their actions, which kept the armed men from hijacking their boat.
“We were pleased that the crew did not lose their presence of mind. Their raw courage enabled them to pour hot water to the pirates who were already attempting to climb the vessel,” Galvez said in a statement yesterday.
The crew’s retaliation meant the authorities had enough time to deploy sea and air assets for a rescue mission.
Westmincom reportedly received a distress call past 10pm last Friday and immediately activated the Anti-Kidnapping Joint Task Force headed by Rear Admiral Rene Medina, commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao.
Medina then deployed five Navy vessels towards the location of the distressed cargo vessel. The Philippine Coast Guard also responded by deploying two naval vessels, while the Philippine Air Force dispatched two aircraft to help in the search and rescue operation.
Unable to board the vessel, the pirates left as quickly as they could, assuming the sailors would have sent a distress call to government security forces, Medina said.
Some crewmembers of MV Kudos suffered minor bruises from broken objects fired by the pirates, Galvez said. However, the pirates failed to abduct a single sailor.
At around midnight, MV Kudos and all its crewmembers were declared safe and were escorted by maritime security authorities towards Zamboanga City, arriving there for anchor around three hours later.
“The recent incident manifest that our response system works and proves effective in thwarting seajacking attempts as long as it is reported to the authorities early.”
He said the country’s Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard units were directed to intensify their joint maritime patrols in the waters off the island-provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi to minimise if not eradicate piracy in the high seas.
In 2016, armed suspects abducted 28 sailors navigating between Mindanao’s Sulu Sea and the Bornean islands of Malaysia and Indonesia, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
Early this month, Galvez claimed the military had “weakened” the capability of the Abu Sayyaf with the neutralisation of over 350 members since last year.
The Abu Sayyaf, listed as a terrorist organisation by both the Philippines and the United States, has been blamed for the spate of abductions in the Sulu Sea.
“We have made great strides in accomplishing our mission to significantly defeat the capability of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu, Basilan, and Tawi-Tawi provinces,” he said. “We were able to strategically control the Sulu and Tawi-Tawi waters and prevented the series of high-profile kidnappings in the tri-boundary of the waters of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.”
The scattered Abu Sayyaf, estimated by authorities to number below 300, is reportedly still holding around a dozen hostages.